Pets are easily at risk of attracting different worms such as roundworms, tapeworms and lungworms. They can pick them up in a number of ways – from other infected animals, from their mother if she is infected while pregnant, or from eating worm eggs in infected faeces, urine or grass.
These are very common in puppies and stray animals. It is important to note that they can infect humans and cause varying illnesses from mild abdominal pain to blindness and can even cause death in puppies and kittens.
Not worming your dog regularly can cause a build-up of worm eggs in the environment, especially in areas such as parks where many dogs are walked and this is a cause for concern because this is where many children play. It also highlights the importance of clearing up any “mess” your dog leaves when on a walk!
Not as common as roundworms. The main way of catching them is from fleas. If your dog’s flea treatment is up-to-date your dog should not have any tapeworm living in their intestines. They can, however, be picked up by animals that hunt or if you feed your dog raw meat. In Wales, a particularly nasty tapeworm is common and this can cause large cysts to grow in humans so treatment for tapeworms is recommended if your take your dog on holiday to Wales. Similarly in Europe, where there are also tapeworms that can cause disease in humans, your dog must be treated within 24-48 hours prior to entry into the UK.
Were you aware of the potential threat to your dog’s health posed by a disease that is caught from eating slugs and snails? Some dogs might not eat slugs and snails on purpose, but they may do so by accident – for example when a slug or snail is sitting on a bone or a favourite toy.
Canine angiostrongylosis is a life-threatening disease of dogs caused by a very sophisticated worm. The worm is called Angiostrongylus Vasorum, often referred to as lungworm or French heartworm due to its discovery in France in 1866.
Vets are now reporting significantly more cases of dogs with the disease than in the past years. As yet it is unclear why there has been an increase, but the worm is known to favour warmer temperatures. Foxes can also be infected, and the increase in urban fox populations might be another reason why vets are seeing more cases in dogs, as infected foxes spread worm larvae in their poo.
Infestations of this lungworm often result in death if not diagnosed, or if left untreated. Early diagnosis by a vet, followed by appropriate treatment will, fortunately, usually lead to a full recovery.
There are many symptoms to watch out for, although an infected dog may equally appear totally healthy. Persistent coughing, reluctance to exercise, depression, weight loss, fits, vomiting, diarrhoea, weakness, paralysis, behavioural changes and persistent bleeding from even insignificant cuts are all possible signs.
Dogs under the age of two appear to be more susceptible but dogs of all ages and breeds can be affected. The wide range of symptoms can easily be confused with other illnesses so contacting your veterinary practice is important in case any of the above signs have been noticed.
For this lungworm to infect a dog it has to pass through an intermediate host and then be eaten by the dog. In this instance, the intermediate hosts are slugs and snails or even frogs! Dogs do not normally eat slugs or snails willingly, although some might unwittingly do so by eating grass or anything else they choose to eat while outside. Outside water bowls or the practice of feeding dogs outside might increase the risk of them eating a slug or snail.
If you suspect your dog may have eaten a slug or a snail, or habitually does so, go and see your vet without delay. He or she will be able to test very quickly whether your dog is infected. Fortunately, there is treatment available for this condition which your vet will be able to prescribe.
Frequency and treatment
Worming your pet is important but the frequency of doing so varies depending on age and life style. Puppies should be wormed monthly until 12 weeks old because the majority will have roundworms. Animals that go outside should also be treated regularly.
There is a very good spot-on treatment available from your vet that not only eliminates fleas but also provides a monthly roundworm treatment. If your dig has fleas then it will need treatment for tapeworm every month and monthly flea control would be advisable. Again, if your dog hunts or eats raw meat, it should be treated for tapeworm every month. Bitches should be wormed during pregnancy to reduce contamination to the puppies.
If you have any queries regarding worming your pet then consult your vet and he will advise you of a suitable regime.